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Sunday, 31 January 2010

Stats

The Black Horse Western Weekend caused a surge of visits with Saturday registering 606 page loads and nearly 300 unique visitors - the month long total was 3,029. Good news, particularly as the Black Horse promotion will continue to be read for some time to come.

Weekly Stats Report
: 25 Jan - 31 Jan 2010
Project: THE TAINTED ARCHIVE
URL: http://tainted-archive.blogspot.com/


MonTuesWedThurFriSatSunTotalAvg
Pageloads3213953022835976065253,029433
Unique Visitors2312582101763002852911,751250
First Time Visitors1912231611422572432461,463209
Returning Visitors4035493443424528841

AMAZON MAKE A U-TURN

Amazon.com Inc's dominant position in the now thriving e-book market was at risk of extinction Sunday after Amazon capitulated in a battle sparked by the launch of Apple Inc.'s new iPad.

Amazon conceded defeat Sunday evening after halting direct sales of books published by Macmillan in a dispute over the price of e-books.

"Ultimately we will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan's terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own books," Amazon said in a statement.

The issue of e-book pricing came to the forefront after Apple unveiled the iPad last Wednesday

Business as usual

I made mention of this earlier but it was tucked away amongst all the Black Horse Western celebrations - I would like to being attention to a new story of mine on Twist of Noir - Cissy's Heebie Jeebies -

This story was originally published in Peeping Tom magazine (issue 15) in 1995. A small press magazine, it was well regarded and the story here was voted third best of the year. It’s a dark, brooding, horror tale – a genre I was working with at the time. I still like this story and in order to give it a wider home on the World Wide Web, I have revisited it but changed very little. I think it still stands up.


I was on a horror kick at the time - devouring Clive Barker's Books of Blood and so this story, influenced by Barker and writers of that ilk, contains some extreme imagery. But I do think the story stands up. Find it HERE

We've done it

I make it a total of 103 posts or thereabouts - we've smashed the target, but then the Black Horse range is so varied that it's not really a problem. I would especially like to thank Steve M and Evan Lewis for all the reviews and bestow Archive Noprize awards on them both.

If you've never tried a Black Horse western then I do hope this weekend has encouraged you to do so - a great place to start would be the excellent A Fistful of Legends anthology. Whilst not strictly a Black Horse title, it will give you a taster of several writers who produce work for the imprint.


video

Why not join the Black Horse community? Make sure you read the free online magazines Black Horse Express and Black Horse Extra. And of course keep visiting the Archive for all the Black Horse news as soon as we get it. And remember those Black Horse Westerns are bigger than Harry Potter.

Blackbow 4 by Chap O'Keefe

Blackbow 3 by Chap O'keefe

Blackbow 2 by Chap O'Keefe

BLACKBOW 1 By Chap O'keefe

PRESENTING BLACKBOW

When Paul Kupperberg posted at Bookgasm on the topic of authors who have transformed themselves from comic book scriptwriters to novelists, it was seen as a fairly modern phenomenon. "Books with no pictures in them? What would comic book writers know about those? More than you might think, at least in the last quarter century or so," Paul said.

For the Black Horse Extra ezine, Keith Chapman did a quick roundup of some of the Black Horse Western authors who had also worked for comics. He revealed that a few, like himself, were writing westerns and/or for comics as far back as back as the early1960s!

BHW names known to have comic-script experience include Sydney J. Bounds, David Bingley (aka Frank Silvester), Vic J. Hanson, Keith Chapman, David M. Heptonstall (aka Mike Stall), E. C. Tubb and David Whitehead (aka Ben Bridges, Matt Logan and Glenn Lockwood). Dave Whitehead still busily scripts Commando war stories today.
Steve Holland lists Albert King as a scriptwriter for the Fleetway pocket libraries. King was a huge contributor to BHW writing, perhaps second only to Lauran Paine in the number of pen-names he had.

Australian-based BHW writer Paul Wheelahan (aka Dempsey Clay and Ryan Bodie) is in a class of his own: he had an earlier career as a comic book artist, drawing The Panther.

The Archive is presenting as part of its BHW Weekend a four-page, complete western yarn that Keith wrote as a comic script way back in the 1960s. Blackbow the Cheyenne and the Innocent Fugitive was published in 1966 in Eagle Annual 1967. (Puzzled? Keep reading!)

Eagle was one of the more famous of the British boys' papers that used to appear weekly with comic strips running as serials. Often these were about heroes that were the property of the publishing house. For Eagle, the heroes included Dan Dare, the Iron Man ... and Blackbow.

Once a year, British publishers would put out for the Christmas gift market handsome hardcover books. These "annuals" would carry the next year's date, the title of the comic and complete stories and strips, many featuring the comic's favourite characters. For instance, in Eagle Annual 1967, Keith also had another strip, The Iron Man and the Wrecker Worms, and a standalone short story, Killer Pack.

This writing was all done around thirty years before the first Chap O'Keefe Black Horse Western novels appeared, but a few years after Keith had begun a professional career as a writer and editor in his late teens. Eagle Annual was printed at this time in Holland and the material was prepared well in advance. Keith says the scripts for the 1967 edition were probably written and forwarded to the artists, many also overseas, in the latter part of 1965 or early 1966.

He also says, "The old British comics were a unique fiction market, regrettably now vanished, leaving a void. But I believe any attempt to cater for their lost audience of youngsters by watering down text novels written for adults would be a mistake."

The background story of Blackbow the Cheyenne, a character originally created by an Amalgamated Press comics editor, Edward Holmes, can be found at http://www.internationalhero.co.uk/b/blackbow.htm

Without more ado, we offer for BHW fans and others a nostalgic ride into yesteryear. . . .

The complete strip is presented in four parts - simply click on each image for a large readable version.

CHUCK TYRELL - ALL NEW INTERVIEW

1 - You write westerns under the name of Chuck Tyrell - Is there any meaning behind this pen name?

My name of Charles T. Whipple. Chuck is a nickname for Charles. Tyrell is my middle name and the family name of one of my father's favorite teachers. Simple.
2 - How long have you had your interest in westerns? How did it initially develop?
The first Western I remember reading was a biography of Wild Bill Hickock published by Landmark Books, which was a book club my parents bought for me when I was nine or ten years old. That same series had a biography of George Armstrong Custer and another of Angus McKay, the designer of America's famed Clipper ships. As I was born and raised in rural Arizona, the West was part of my lifestyle. I received my first real rifle, a .22 single shot, for Christmas in 1953. I always had a pistol and a rifle until I moved to Japan the first time in 1968. (Japan does not allow its citizens to bear arms.) Since I reached the age to buy my own reading material, I have consistently bought and read Westerns. In particular, I have probably read all of Zane Grey's works, ditto Max Brand, lots of Matt Braun, Clair Huffaker, Gordon Sheriffs, and Louis L'Amour, of course.

3- What can readers new to your work expect to find?
I tend to place my stories in areas of Arizona that I am familiar with. So the reader can expect the geography to be quite accurate, even when I use a fictitious town. My town of Longhorn, where the main action of The Killing Trail takes place, is based on Holbrook, Arizona. The town of Ponderosa is based on the sawmill town of McNary, which is now almost a ghost town The mill is gone, but the big log pond remains. Ponderosa is the site of Guns of Ponderosa, and Paradise Valley and Paradise Creek in the novel Hell Fire in Paradise is a few miles east of Ponderosa. My characters are entirely from my imagination, but historical characters often play walk-on roles. The one exception is The Killing Trail, in which the entire book, area and people, is fiction.

4- The western has been on something of a revival in recent years. Where do you see the future of the genre going?
Unfortunately, I am not a mainstream Western author and have few connections with the community of Western writers in the United States. Judging from what's going on in the Western Writers Association, I think Westerns are gaining some momentum. When I went to Arizona in September 2009, I found that many residents of the state, even newcomers, were very interested in Arizona history. There were also western novels in most of the supermarkets. I was quite encouraged about the future of our genre. While our novels tend to be escapist, I feel we would be sell served if we paid more attention of actual history and wove our stories around actual events and about actual places. Nevertheless, the success of any novel depends on its characters and the conflicts they face in their lives.

5- Tell us a little about the way you work - do you write a set amount each day, have a target to reach?
I write every day. I don't always work on a novel every day. Once I start a BHW novel, I try to finish a chapter a week in first draft. My chapters are 2000-3000 words long, and contain three to five scenes. When I worked every day in my office in Tokyo, I wrote westerns on my coffee breaks and usually got 250-500 words done each day. I started a BHW novel in December but found after two chapters that it didn't sound right so I shelved it and am currently noodling different story lines. Some writers have many stories already in their heads. I think Howard is that way. I have to think the story through and come up with a final resolution before I start. I find that if a writer has the opening scene and the resolution in mind, the middle of the book moves along quite smoothly. Then, when the first draft is complete, the opening may have to be revised.


6-What advice would you give aspiring writers
Keep writing. I wrote Vulture Gold in 1979. It was finally published more than 20 years later after a great deal of editing and rewriting. The story, however, held up well. So, keep writing and writing.

I also think some writing courses are very valuable. When I finally made the decision to become a writer, the first thing I did was spend money I could not afford on a writing correspondence class. That led to my first magazine article sale, and I continue to write for magazines and newspapers. I also read many books on writing. I think John Gardner is the one of the best instructors in the art of fiction. Orson Scott Card's books on fiction -- How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, and Characters and Viewpoints -- give any fiction writer important incites about characters and stories. Finally, a book by nonfiction guru Jon Franklin -- Write for Story -- gives writers an important tool for plotting scenes and stories.

7 - you maintain a blog (this will be linked to). Is this the place to go for readers to learn more about our books?
At the moment, my blog is purely personal. While it contains information about westerns and the west, it is not designed to promote western literature. I plan to launch a new Western-oriented blog in coming months, but first must learn more about online promotion and effective blogging. My blog is http://tokyowest.typepad.com/charlies_blog/

8-And you are very active in the BHW forum - does the fact that there is this community between BHW writers help you at all in writing your own books.
It's always good to have an active forum like BHW on Yahoo. Writing can be a very lonely profession, and the Group helps us feel part of a community. Activity on the Group gave me the fictional town of Longhorn, and I used it in The Killing Trail. The recent Story with No Name exercise was a very good look at the writing styles and thought processes of a number of BHW writers. That in itself was very valuable. I suppose that if we were a writers group, there would be more passing around of drafts for comments, but as everyone is working on several projects at once, the added burden of critique might be too much. I do think the process of putting together our anthologies -- Where Legends Ride, and A Fistful of Legends -- was beneficial to the writers because they had good editors to help them and beneficial to the readers because the anthologies give them top-notch
western fiction.

9-Tell us about any future projects.
I have a draft -- The Snake Den -- which I must edit to bring it within Hale guidelines. And I have a mystery that needs a rewrite. I'm doing a lot of research about America in Resolutionary War times and eventually plan to write about a privateer in that conflict. My model for this effort is Bernard Cornwell and his Sharpe series.

10 - Finally - desert island western - film and book
Ah, marooned on a desert island, eh? Hmmm. I would have to take a James Michener book and would vacillate among Centennial, Texas, Mexico . . . . My favorite Western film at the moment features Tom Selleck. It's based on a book by Elmore Leonard -- Last Stand at Sabre River. The conflict between the husband and wife, to me, is far more important than the big rancher vs small rancher one. It's a minor film, but a very good one.

DEAD MAN'S GUNS BY LOGAN WINTERS western fiction review


DEAD MAN’S GUNS
As by Logan Winters
A Black Horse Western from Hale, January 2010

The killer Frank Lavender was dead, so how could it be that he was involved in a gunfight at Hoyt’s Camp, a logging town along Wyoming’s Snake River? Either Lavender had found a way to cheat Death or it was someone else using the gunman’s name.

Lyle Colbert didn’t like it either way for Frank Lavender, or whoever it was, had come to town to destroy Lyle Colbert, supposedly out of love for the pretty Tess Bright. It wasn’t certain if Tess reciprocated the gunman’s love, but it did not matter for she would have no time to make up her mind. Colbert was determined to kill Frank Lavender. Again.

Logan Winters begins this book with an exciting chase that leaves a man near dead, and without a memory of who he is. Once found by a family struggling to make a living as loggers, the father sees an opportunity to solve his problems through deceit – although he considers himself both “fortunate and ingeniously clever” – tricking the stranger into believing he’s someone he’s not.

And so begins an exciting tale of a logging war and discovery; the latter being of the stranger trying to piece his past life back together and finding out who he really is, and that of love. There are plenty of memorable characters, not least the stranger, there’s also Tess and her brother, Andy. Then there’s the hired gun Santana with his own code on who he’ll kill.

The action scenes are first rate and Winter’s writing is easy to read and well paced, as I’d expect having read other books by this author – which meant the small continuity error near the end came as a bit of a surprise, still this did nothing to spoil my enjoyment of the book and wont keep me from reading more of his work. MORE

THE COMMUNITY - THE HEAD MAN SPEAKS

Writing can be a lonely business - stuck there at the keyboard all day, no one to talk to except your dog sat obediently on the floor besides you, your mind out of body and travelling fictional landscapes, and nothing to do but type, drink coffee, suck on a pipe, munch on a donut, or scratch yourself...wait a minute, that sounds like Heaven on Earth.

But every now and then it would be nice to have someone to talk to about your work, maybe someone knowledgeable to help with an issue or two - that's where the Black Horse Western Yahoo Group come in. You won't find a friendlier group anywhere on the Wild West Web. If you need to know the land mass of Colorado or which Indian tribes inhabited Arizona, or anything else then someone here is sure to know.

The group also coordinated the publication process of the two western anthologies, Where Legends Ride and A Fistful of Legends.

Billed: A group for readers and writers of Black Horse Westerns from Robert Hale, Ltd., and Ulverscroft's Linford and Dales Western Lines, as well as western fans in general. We produce a quarterly online free magazine called the Black Horse Express and seek to provide a friendly atmosphere of encouragement, support, research and viewpoint exchange. We seek to keep the spirit of the Wild West alive through these action-packed, beautifully packaged novels.

If your interested in westerns, as a writer, reader or viewer you'll find this group helpful. Anyone can join so click HERE and get involved. The Archive cornered cheif moderator Howard Hopkins for a Q&A session.

1 - You started the Black Horse Western Group back in 2002, what was your thinking behind this?

A friend suggested to me there should be a group for these books and I thought it was a good idea. Not only to raise awareness for my own Lance Howard novels but for the entire line. I also wanted a place where writers and readers of the books could come together, as well as a supportive family-type, encouraging atmosphere for those writing them, at the time, virtually in seclusion.

2- Of course the group contains a
fair number of BH authors but an equal amount of readers What can people get out of joining the group?

Camaraderie, encouragement, support, honest critique, research answers from experts, guidance for new writers, and a chance to discuss favorite Western books (and, in fact, all things Western). As well, updates on favorite books, authors and projects. One of the biggest group projects, aside from The Black Horse Express, our online Western magazine (www.blackhorsewesterns.org), is the recent inauguration of Express Westerns and its critically acclaimed short story anthologies, Where Legends Ride and A Fistful of Legends. Not only has this showcased some of Black Horse Westerns’ finest writers, but it has also provided an opportunity for first-time talents to shine.

3- Personally I've found the group great whenever I need any Old West information. You send out questions and the answers come zinging in. Have you ever looked everywhere for some snippet of information and then found someone on the group knows the answer?

Oh, yes! It’s one of the group’s greatest strengths. I have spent countless hours researching something only to come up empty. A post to the group has then brought me the answer within a very short period. We have some folks on the group who are nearly living encyclopedias when it comes to Old West details.

4-What do you think it is about the Black Horse westerns that attract such a loyal following?

First and foremost, the talent pool, the story-tellers. The books are gorgeous little hardcovers with eye-catching covers, but in order for a line to survive it must provide what the readers want from writers who can tell a story. The books cover an incredible range of Western, too, from traditional to genre-stretching tales, plenty of action, leap-off-the-page characters and a look at our own modern world through the open eyes of history.


5-Your own writing - tell us a little about your non western stuff.

My writing under my own Howard Hopkins name covers a wide range, from horror to pulp adventure to comic books. I write a supernatural mystery series called The Chloe Files for adults and a series for children 8+ called The Nightmare Club (www.howardhopkins.com). Lately I have had the opportunity to develop an obscure pulp character called The Golden Amazon for comic and wide-screen books, as well as writing short stories for anthologies including The Green Hornet, Sherlock Holmes, The Spider (also Spider tales for comic book and graphic novels), Captain Midnight and The Avenger. I co-edited The Avenger Chronicles and will be resuming that job shortly for two more Avenger volumes.

6-And what's your next western going to be about?

About 40,000 words! I have two percolating, basically just titles and germs right now, but fitting them in between my comic book and antho work is going to be the problem. I have two coming soon from Black Horse titled Dead Man Riding and The Killing Kind.





Black Horse Westerns. Many folks here in the USA, even long-time Western readers, do not know what they are, but that’s changing, and I think 2010 will be the year they burst onto the trail. 2009 saw a great expansion in the awareness of these rugged little hardcovers with their shiny, action-packed covers. Much of that came from the efforts of dedicated folks on the Black Horse Western group with their Author Days initiative, their Black Horse Express online magazine (www.blackhorsewesterns.org) and writer Ian Parham’s Black Horse Blog, as well as a new Express Westerns line of anthologies. A plethora of blogs, including the one you are reading, my own Dark Bits with its Western Wednesdays (http://howardhopkins.blogspot.com) and others have gone viral. Black Horse writer Chap O’Keefe’s Black Horse Extra (www.blackhorsewesterns.com) and new imprint of Misfit Lil books, Robert Hale’s own snazzy new webpage (www.halebooks.com) and newsletter have also forged the trail.

Word is getting out and perhaps riding point in that effort is the man who conceived this Black Horse Weekend, Gary Dobbs. Consummate actor and author, he began his Black Horse writing with a novel that became perhaps the catalyst of growth within the line, igniting more sales than any other BHW before and initiating reprints on select titles. I want to say a personal thank you to Gary, not only for giving me the opportunity to participate in this weekend, but for his enthusiasm and grab-the-bull-by-the-balls attitude.

Which is why I think 2010 will be the year of the Black Horse Western. It’s starting off with a bang and can only get bigger. Express Westerns, on this very weekend, is releasing its second western short story anthology, A Fistful of Legends, which includes some of the cream of the Black Horse crop as well as a couple of talented newcomers, a book slated to compete in the prestigious Western Writers of America Spur awards. Readers will be able to sample 21 writers for the line and see for themselves just how wide a range of talent Black Horse has to offer. Amazon US is now carrying new Black Horse Westerns (but get ‘em fast!), making them easier access for US fans (as well as less expensive).

The future, even in economic downturn, looks bright for these “little horse operas that could”. The Western is far from dead. It is riding strong and will burst into a gallop. And this weekend is its “Hi Yo, Silver!”


BLACKBOW IS COMING...

Well we're almost there, galloping towards the target of 100 BHW posts, but there's so much more still to come today.

Howard Hopkins/Lance Howard talks to us about the online Black Horse community

Charles Whipple/Chuck Tyrell, a man who has helped big time in this weekend, is featured in an all new interview

We proudly present Blackbow, a complete western strip from the legendary Eagle by Keith Chapman. This comic strip by our very own Chap O'Keefe was originally published in the Eagle annual 1967 (Gosh, I was only two years old then. So I guess I missed this one) and has not been seen since.

And more, so keep popping back.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

SO YOU WANT TO WRITE A BLACK HORSE WESTERN

Why write western fiction? By western we mean novels/stories set in the Old West - usually, but not exclusively between the years immediately following the civil war and upto 1890. Who would want to read western fiction in the world we live in today?

Many people clearly do - the western provides a form of escapism, a comfort zone that is becoming more and more important in the frantic world we live in today. There is an enduring quality in taking the imaginative leap to a time long gone and finding that the issues facing people were remarkably similar to those we face on a daily basis, it is inspiring to read about people facing up to life's trials and tribulations and standing resolute against anything thrown at them.

The western as a literary genre had its golden age sometime around the middle of the last century and indeed the writers of that period are still widely read today - L'amour, Zane Grey. But to find the roots of the genre you have to travel further back, much further - in fact to the Old West itself when hack writers were mythologising the West even as it was going on around them.

Perhaps the defining classic of the genre is Owen Wister's The Virginian, first published in 1901. The book sold 300,000 copies in its first year, led the American bestseller lists for most of 1902 and by 1968 had sold over 2 million copies. It is perhaps the most widely read book about that period we call, "the wild west" and shaped the conventions of the genre for generations of writers to follow. Anyone wanting to write a western simply must read this seminal work.

There was a time when everything was clear cut in the western - the hero always wore a white hat, the baddie a black one. Right and wrong were clearly defined and there was a code to be followed but these days practically anything goes in a western. Modern issues can be tackled and many writers cleverly disguise the concerns of the 21st century within their narrative. In short there is no kind of story the western can not tell - crime, romance, horror, comedy. The western is versatile enough to accommodate them all.


SO WHERE DO I START ? Research is very important in the westerns. You must get the details right, particularly with guns and location. I've often been enjoying a book and then I notice some mistake the writer has made and it drags me out of the story. Even minor mistakes can ruin a story. However the aspiring western writer should take heart in the fact that mostly everyone knows what the west would have looked like. This makes the writers' job that much easier and with the advent of the internet any required information is usually only a few key-strokes away.

THE ACTUAL WRITING. There is no one way to do this. Some writers like to rush through the first draft and then take care of structure, style and plot problems in the re-write. Others are more cautious and will plod along, revising as they go and when that first draft comes out it needs very little tweaking. I hop between both camps but I do like to keep the story moving along, to give it pace and I actually look forward to the revising once the first draft is complete. For me the first draft is a necessary evil and getting it out of the way is all important.


CHARACTERS. It is good characterisation that can turn a good story into a great one. Try and put yourself in your characters mindset and think what you would do in a given situation, however it is important to put modern inhibitions aside. You would have been a very different person had you been alive in the 1880's. Perhaps the single most helpful piece of advice for creating characters is READ, READ AND READ. Only by studying the work of writers you admire can you ever hope to understand the process involved in creating realistic people to populate what is after all an outlandish fictional landscape.

STOP PROCRASTINATING AND GET DOWN TO IT. The biggest thing is to stop talking about it and get on with it, as difficult as it can be to find time in our hectic lives it is important to be stubborn and get down to the actual writing. You must make time - no matter what- or your creation will always be a pipe dream. Remember it is no different writing a western to any other form of genre fiction and the tools used will always be the same. Behind every successful (define successful as professionally published)writer is a person who was pig headed enough to get on with writing no matter what was going on around them.

THE BEST ADVICE. And here it is, the best advice anyone can give someone wanting to write for a living, anyone wanting to hone their craft and create readable prose. It's nothing mythical. no arcane knowledge belonging to a select few. It is this - READ. Read everything you can get your hands on, devour every western that comes your way. Pay attention to the accepted masters of the genre and read classic as well as modern westerns. Look at what contemporary authors are doing with the genre. Just because the lone gunfighter is becoming a cliché doesn't mean you should forsake him or even her as the case may be. There are certain conventions the western fan demands and only by being familiar to the genre can the writer hope to recognise what these are.

So get writing, you've an arduous trail ahead of you but with stamina and a self belief as wide as the prairies you

THE WESTERN

Sat upon his horse, head bowed, silhouetted against a sunset of vivid crimson. The wind blows and only a thick fur lined coat and the Stetson, pulled down low over the eyes, protects the man from the elements. He is both strong and tender, brave and caring. He is thoughtful of others and mindful of himself. He's out there now, riding the plains of imagination.

He is the cowboy.


The cowboy - and we're not talking about the root definition of the term but the generic cowboy. In these terms the word cowboy is all encompassing and used to describe anyone, miner, rancher, oulaw, Calvary soldier. In short anyone who strode the landscape of the mythical western.

The popular definition of the cowboy was set out during the early days of cinema - Brush Between Cowboys and Indians, filmed in 1904 by Edison was the first silent western to develop the image that predominates to this day. Whilst it is true that the earlier Great Train Robbery (1903) can in many ways be called a, "Cowboy Movie" this concerns itself chiefly with a group of outlaws and concentrated on a robbery rather than creating a screen persona of characters that would become a template within popular culture.


The fist actor to truly define the screen image of the cowboy was Broncho Billy Anderson who actually played several roles in Porter's 1903 Great Train Robbery. He was credited with creating the good badman image. IN 1908'S Broncho Billy and the Baby he plays an outlaw who discovers an injured child and returns it to its parents. Numerous one reel dramas were made between 1910 and 1916.

If it was Broncho Billy that laid the foundations for the screen cowboy then it was another actor who firmly cemented the image in the public consciousness - Tom Mix was an actual working cowboy who was hired on location as an extra and went on to become a prolific silent western star and director. What was ironic about Mix was that although he was a real life cowboy his screen persona was among the most unrealistic ever to ride the celluloid trails. His costumes were often made up of ten gallon hats, colourful shirts with an abundance of fringes and large silver belt buckles. It was remarked by critics at the time that he was dressed more like a Christmas tree than an ordinary cowboy. William S. Hart in contrast made much more serious westerns but his cowboy shared many traits with Mix and between them they developed a kind of shorthand that could be called the cowboy code.

THE COWBOY CODE
A
man is brave and strong
A man is not afraid to go against the law of the land if he considers it right to do so
Freedom is all important
The cowboy is independent, strong and true
A cowboy will not be insulted
Like the wind the cowboy is transient and can enter on a breeze but usually leaves with a storm

Perhaps the greatest embodiment of the screen cowboy is John Wayne. He was around during the early days of sound and starred in countless B-westerns before and after his breakthrough in John Fords's 1939 Stagecoach. In the movie Wayne played the Ringo Kid - a good badman and from his first appearance on screen it is evident we are seeing a star as big as Monument Valley.

Wayne not only stuck to the cowboy code but he set it firmer in the pop culture lexicon. He became such a star they we usually pronounced his name as one word, Johnwayne and the word came to symbolise all that was good and noble about the imaginary West. The man was a tower of strength who never needed to turn to anyone else for help. Those others did often come to his aid he would do what had to be done with or without them.

Wayne's mid period - the 1950's - 1960's was also the Golden age of the western and there were many high profile stars who further added to the mythology of the cowboy but all of them were confirming largely to the blueprint of the screen cowboy as defined in the earliest days of the silent cinema.

Gary Cooper with his slightly haunted looks.
Alan Ladd with his good and wholesome strength.
Henry Fonda was stoic and brutal but at the turn of a hand equally kind.
James Stewart rode the range almost like an avenging spirit.
Randolph Scott with sadness in his eyes and a fast gun on his hip.

It was during the latter half of the Sixties that the revisionists came to the fore - the Peckinpah's, the Eastwood's, the Leone's. The screen cowboy became much more brutal and seemed to care for nothing other than their own self interest. But even these new knights of the range confirmed in some part to conventions that were now an intrinsic part of the genre. In A Fistful of Dollars even Eastwood's mercenary loner puts his life on the line to help out an imprisoned woman. Eastwood's man with no name may have seem revolutionary at the time but at its core he was playing, the good badman. He was walking a path well trodden by the likes of Tom Mix, William Anderson and John Wayne before him.

He's out there now, the cowboy. He's been given a certain reality by the movies, the books and the comics. He's become a historical fact that never truly was.


He's never too far from our collective imagination and can be identified within the DNA of the science fiction hero battling in a futuristic landscape, in the lone cops who keep the celluloid streets clear of killers and thieves and in the little man who stands up against big business and corruption. What was Star Wars if not a western in space? The sand people were the Indians, the Empire the corrupt businessman who wanted to ensnare the land and destroy freedom, our intrepid heroes confirmed to the blueprint of the cowboy. Hell, Han Solo was so much the western good badman that he could have been lifted and plopped into any 1950's western with a seamless join. Watch Indiana Jones and you are viewing a bastard son twice removed of the old Saturday morning cowboy serials.

So even if you've never watched a westerns chances are you have, in a manner of speaking of course.

We're on target

One day and ten posts to go to reach the target of 100.

100 posts, all in some way related to the Black Horse Westerns.

Check them out folks, but not before you read Chap O'Keefe's history of the black horse logo.













What is a Black Horse Western? When did the series begin? This short
history begins with the line's birth . . . and an unmourned death.

Eighteen years ago an anonymous American western cowboy was thrown from
the back of a prancing black horse in London. And he has not been seen
since.

It seems the unknown cowboy met his death with the birth of the Black
Horse Western series of novels published by the independent,
family-owned British firm, Robert Hale Ltd, whose chairman and managing
director is Mr John Hale.

Until that date, the company's western novels had been published with a
series logo on title pages of a stetson-wearing, loop-swinging cowboy
riding a bucking black horse. When the line was re-branded as Black
Horse Westerns, the cowboy went, the horse rose up on its hind legs in
earnest and a wicked glint entered its eye.

Mr Martin Kendall, the Hale marketing director, says, "The Black Horse
imprint was first used in 1986, although we had been issuing novels in
this genre since the 1940s, if not before. The firm was started in 1936."

Westerns, then, had always had a strong presence on the Hale fiction
list. During the 1960s and 1970s, Hale's cowboy-and-horse had graced
the title pages of hardback books by Louis L'Amour, Max Brand, Lauran
Paine (under countless aliases) and many, many British authors of
western fiction, at least one or two of whom are still active in the
field today.

The company, which currently publishes more than 100 westerns a year --
exceeding any US publisher's total -- was forced at one stage to launch
a sister imprint. "The John Gresham imprint used in the '60s and early
'70s was invented in order that our output could be increased without
the feeling in the trade that there were just too many westerns coming
from Hale," Mr Kendall says.

So if you're a fan of western fiction, live in Britain or a Commonwealth
country, and borrow hardback books from libraries, you're sure to be
familiar with the small, 160-page novels that today are Black Horse
Westerns. Other readers, including Americans, will have come across the
same stories reissued in large-print, trade-paperback editions put out
in the Linford Western Library and Dales Westerns series, both
distributed internationally by the Ulverscroft group.

At the time the Hale horse threw off its cowboy, the books also lost
their separate pictorial wrappers or jackets which were carried over a
red, or sometimes black, binding. The books became "paper-boards" with
their colorful covers incorporated in a single attractive unit. With no
more paper coverings -- apt to become torn, crumpled and eventually
discarded -- the books looked better than ever. And their appearance is
still attracting favorable comment world-wide.

The stories are traditional in tone -- tales of action and gunsmoke in
the Old West -- and the series has on occasion reprinted classic works
by Ernest Haycox, William Colt MacDonald, Lewis B. Patten, T. V. Olsen
and D. B. Newton. They offer the older person the chance to taste again
the pleasures of the "pulp fiction" era, and introduce the younger to
reading pleasures no longer to be enjoyed elsewhere.

The writers live around the globe, some researching the historical
backgrounds to their stories using the latest in computer technology as
well as personal libraries that sometimes run into hundreds of volumes.
Black Horse Westerns are written by people in Britain, America, South
Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Although most BHW readers borrow from libraries, the books can also be
ordered online at Amazon UK, WH Smith, and other retailers. For
bargains, choose your title and author and set a good search engine in
motion! Public libraries will also locate them for you via interloan
agreements with libraries in other areas, or by buying them in. It's
handy to have publication date and ISBN ready when you make your request.

And if anyone can find out more about the "lost" cowboy, let us know at
Black Horse Express!

WESTERN ICONS - DID BUTCH AND SUNDANCE DIE HERE????

At the entrance to a settlement in a remote part of Bolivia, a sign reads: "Welcome to San Vicente. Here lie Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid."

The two Wild West outlaws were immortalised by Robert Redford and Paul Newman in the 1969 classic film "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid".

It is widely believed that the two died 100 years ago - on 7 November 1908 - in this old miners' settlement high in the southern Bolivian Andes.

"We're happy, we're proud to have such a legacy in this place," said local miner Vicente Reizo, covered in dust and wearing a tin hat.

"My grandfather used to live right next to where they got shot, it is part of our history. They put this village on the map."

Forced out

The real story in itself is a fascinating one.

Butch Cassidy was born Robert LeRoy Parker on 13 April 1866.

His criminal career started by stealing a horse. Legend goes that because he had briefly worked as a butcher, and admired the young cowboy Mike Cassidy, he chose "Butch Cassidy" as his nickname.
Local miner Vicente Reizo
Mr Reizo says Butch and Sundance have been good for the town

His friend Harry Alonzo Longabaugh had also stolen a horse, for which he spent a stint in a prison in Sundance, Wyoming. After that he called himself "The Sundance Kid".

Butch and Sundance became professional outlaws, robbing banks and holding up trains. Their gang, with other cowboys, became known as "The Wild Bunch".

By the end of the 19th Century, robbing the payrolls of the Rocky Mountain West mining company had made them America's most wanted criminals, tracked down by marshals and detectives alike.

But why these two charismatic robbers ended up in Bolivia and what eventually happened to them still remains the subject of debate.

Some say they were "honourable" criminals who never stole from the poor and that they never hurt anyone other than in self-defence.

Whether or not that is true, bounty hunters forced them out of the US in early 1901.

Safe haven

Along with Sundance's partner, Etta (or Ethel) Place, they took a freighter from New York to Buenos Aires and settled at a ranch in Patagonia.

Yet they were chased from this sanctuary in early 1905. Their exact whereabouts for the next year or so are not entirely known.
The graveyard in San Vicente
Could the outlaws be buried in this Bolivian graveyard?

They were in and out of Argentina, Chile, perhaps Peru and finally Bolivia.

There they mingled with the many North Americans and Europeans that lived in the Bolivian Andes, most of whom had made lots of money in the mining industry.

It is not clear why they chose Bolivia as their safe haven. There were similarities to the Wild West - mining towns and arid land - but the authorities did not take kindly to lawbreakers.

The Bolivians had captured or killed most of the foreign bandits (generally disgruntled miners or railroad workers) operating in the country in the early 1900s.

Many historians believe they added Butch and Sundance to their tally.

Gunfight

The two men, they believe, fled to San Vicente after robbing a mule train carrying the payroll of the Aramayo Mining Co.

When a patrol discovered them a lengthy gunfight ensued. It went on until darkness fell. Later that night, townspeople reported hearing screams and two shots.

In the morning of 7 November 1908, the story goes, the Bolivian army cavalry unit entered the house where the "gringos" had been hiding.

They saw two men lying in a pool of blood, riddled with bullets. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were dead.
Local expert Felix Chalar, next to a poster showing the two men
Expert Felix Chalar says he believes the story is true

The police report allegedly stated that, judging from the position of the bodies, Butch had probably shot his fatally wounded partner-in-crime to ease his misery, before killing himself with his final bullet.

Yet all of this was never proved.

The bodies were supposedly buried at the small San Vicente cemetery, where they remain today.

But it was never really proved that the two "gringos" were in fact Butch and Sundance. Some say the outlaw pair ultimately made their way back to the United States, where they lived anonymously until their deaths.

For local expert Felix Chalar, "there is enough evidence to support the case that Butch and Sundance died in Bolivia".

And in the Bolivian mining town, the presence of the rebellious spirits of Butch and Sundance is deeply felt.

"They are there, they are there," a local child said, pointing at the small graveyard. "When I grow up, I want to be like them."

GILLIAN F TAYLOR INTERVIEW march 2009

Gillan F. Taylor describes herself as a part time writer from Sheffield but for a part timer she is certainly prolific with eleven Black Horse Westerns under her belt. She also writes fan fiction set in the Blakes 7 and Star Wars universes. She has a joint honours degree in ancient history and archaeology and proved her smarts when she recently won BBC's television's Mastermind which is probably the most arduous TV quiz in the world.

The Archive caught up with this lady of the West for a quick question/ answer session.

TA:
What is it about the western that appeals to you?


GT:

Horses ! I was, and still am, a classic pony girl. So I loved to watch westerns on the telly because they had horses in. The first western I read was called ‘White Stallion, Red Mare’, by J T Edson, which I bought under the impression it was about horses. It wasn’t, but I enjoyed it and bought more.

I like westerns in much the same way I like other action-based genres, but it does has some unique aspects. I love the way that westerns are so often firmly set into the landscape. They evoke wide plains, mountains, deserts. The landscape often influences the action in a way that you don’t get in other genres.

I’ve done a lot of research about the west for my own writing, of course, especially how people lived out in this new land. When I read a western I’m reminded of what these pioneers went through, moving into a empty land, facing all the natural and unnatural hazards, and building a new life so far from home and family. The people who moved West were brave people.

TA:
What writers influence you?

GT:
That’s difficult to answer, because I read a lot of different authors, and have been writing for many years now. I could suggest Jane Austen, Ian Fleming and J T Edson and they’re probably all in there somewhere.


TA:
What is your writing pattern?

GT:

My writing tends to be rather irregular, hence the erratic gaps between books appearing. When I’m being organized, I try to write during the day, regular working hours, but I’ve always been a nightbird, so it’s not uncommon for me to work in the evening or late into the night. When I’m making the effort to sit down and get on with a book, I aim to write two pages a day, five days out of seven.



TA:
How would you describe your books to newcomers?



GT:

Umm…I guess there’s a bias towards character-driven stories. ‘Cullen’s Quest’ is a more straight-forward adventure, though its two sequels, ‘Hyde’s Honour’ and ‘The Judas Metal’ (out next year) are more character driven. There’s usually a streak of humour in them, especially the Darrow novels. Writing dialogue for Darrow and Keating when they start sniping at one another is great fun.

More specifically, there are three series so far. The Rocking W trilogy (Rocking W, The Paducah War and San Felipe Guns) is complete and evolved from the first western I wrote. It centres around the friendship between Paul Hallam, and the Comanche half-breed, Josh Thunder and is set down in the Big Bend of Texas.

The Williams/Hyde trilogy will be complete on the publication of ‘The Judas Metal’. Hyde and Williams meet during an eventful stagecoach journey in the south-west of Texas (Cullen’s Quest) and start working a silver mine together. Loyalty and friendship are the themes of these books, tested by lots of action.

There are currently three Darrow books (Darrow’s Law, Darrow’s Word and Darrow’s Badge) and I intend to write more. These are set in an expanding railroad town in Wyoming. Darrow is the local sheriff, who does a good job in spite of his low opinion of the town and his deputy. Deputy Hugh Keating is an English gentleman with a weakness for alcohol and gambling, and a sense of self-preservation and borders on cowardice.

Of my other titles, Jonah Durrell, the protagonist of ‘Two-Gun Trouble’ will probably return again, as will Sheriff Alec Lawson and his deputies from ‘Silver Express’ – out in September 09.

TA: Given the state of the genre at the moment where do you see it going in the future?


GT:

There’s been a mini-revival of the western in cinemas recently, so one can hope that this would spill over into more mainstream books. However, I suspect that the western book as likely to remain sidelined, especially here in the UK. I don’t think it will die out totally, but I think it needs to find a younger readership. Just don’t ask me how.



TA:

Future projects?



GT:

I’m currently writing a short story featuring Jonah Durrell for the next Express Westerns anthology. After that I plan to write the next Darrow novel. Elements of that story have been simmering away for three or four years now, but I recently figured out how to make them work as a coherent story. Then it’s either another full length Jonah Durrell novel, or a Sheriff Lawson novel.


TA:

How does it feel to be a Mastermind winner?



GT:


Great ! I’d been on 15-1 three times before (final twice, won once) so I knew I wasn’t likely to freeze under the pressure of answering questions in front of the camera. I had a lovely day out – the production team are lovely people and really took care of us. I loved sitting in the black chair, being challenged with the questions and giving back the answers – at least in my specialized subject, where I got everything right, and made what I believe to be the highest score of the series (18), and possibly of the revived format. Then as my general knowledge was weaker, it went to a tie-break, which is unusual. I won on Mastermind thanks to something I’d picked up from watching ‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here’, which amuses me no end.

I’ve watched Mastermind from back in the 1970’s, and long had a vague idea of appearing on it. I finally decided that this was as good a time as any, and went for it. I guess anyone who watches it wonders how they would do, and I’m proud that I not only tried, but won.

My next appearance will be broadcast on Friday 17th April.



TA:

Desert island book?



GT:

That’s a tricky one to answer. I’ll nominate ‘Out West’, a short story anthology from the 1950’s edited by Jack Schaefer. It has stories of all kinds, including some good comic yarns, and covers pretty much the full range of the western story. Sadly, there’s nothing by Schaefer himself, who was an excellent writer. I’m also tempted to claim my own ‘Darrow’s Badge’, because I enjoy it so much.



TA:

Desert island film?


GT:

Once Upon A Time In The West. All three or so glorious hours of it. The first time I saw it, I was fascinated by the three men waiting at the railroad station, the way they passed the time and the natural sound that gave a better sense of time and place than any dialogue. I love the soundtrack – the wailing harmonica and Cheyenne’s jaunty theme, and how each theme is used and transformed within the film. I’m a big fan of Charles Bronson and this is a good role for him. I love the way the stories unravel, and the different layers of the characters, and Cheyenne’s fate and…

The Shadow Riders by Owen G. Irons western fiction review


THE SHADOW RIDERS
As by Owen G. Irons
A Black Horse Western from Hale
February 2009

It wasn’t asking too much of a man. The Arizona Rangers only wanted Tyrone Cannfield to let himself be thrown into an army punishment camp sentenced to hard labour, escape from the chain gang, track down the Shadow Riders, a gang of plundering, murderous thugs, bring in Mingo, the savage leader of the badmen, and halt a train robbery. All this to be done on his own with fifty badmen ready to shoot him down at the first misstep.

It wasn’t asking too much of him because Mingo was the man who murdered Cannfield’s wife back in Texas, and he would do everything possible to eliminate him and the Shadow Riders. But would he survive?

The first thing you notice about this book is it’s a much longer read than the majority of Black Horse Westerns, not in page length but by the size of the print and the much narrower margins.

Owen G. Irons (who I believe is really Paul Lederer) starts the book with the savage treatment of the army punishment camp and once Canfield is sprung from there and taken to be a member of the Shadow Riders the many questions begin to build up, which give Canfield many mysteries to ponder and many challenges to overcome: such as who is the mystery sniper, who is the Man with no Name, who is his contact Bert, what are the two sisters roles in all this, and how will he get out alive? MORE

MISFIT LIL CLEANS UP BY CHAP O'KEEFE western fiction review


MISFIT LIL CLEANS UP
as by Chap O’Keefe
A Black Horse Western from Hale, 2008

A senseless killing stopped Jackson Farraday from investigating an odd situation in the raw mining settlement called Black Dog. For answers he tricked Lilian Goodnight into spying at the High Meadows cattle ranch.

Lil was dismayed to find range boss Liam O’Grady running a hatwire outfit crewed by deeper-dyed misfits than herself. Then she was obliged to save ex-British Army major Albert Fitzcuthbert – sent to investigating High Meadows by its owners – from renegade Indians.

Everybody had secrets: Lil’s childhood friend Liam; his spouse Mary, and Fitzcuthbert’s cruelly humiliated young wife, Cecilia. Lil was facing problems only her savvy, daring and guns could settle!

Chap O’Keefe definitely knows how to tell a good yarn, he immediately hooks the reader by introducing a number of questions, the answers to which Misfit Lil will have to struggle to find.

There is plenty of action in this fast moving tale and Misfit Lil makes for an engaging lead character. O’Keefe also includes brief mention of her past adventures – this being the fifth Misfit Lil book – that makes me want to find those books and discover just how she and the other characters, already known to her, came to like or dislike each other.

It is also unusual to find the main character, in a Black Horse Western, being female and, for me, this made a pleasant change. HERE

LANCE HOWARD TALKS BLACK HORSE WESTERNS

Black Horse Westerns. Many folks here in the USA, even long-time Western readers, do not know what they are, but that’s changing, and I think 2010 will be the year they burst onto the trail. 2009 saw a great expansion in the awareness of these rugged little hardcovers with their shiny, action-packed covers. Much of that came from the efforts of dedicated folks on the Black Horse Western group with their Author Days initiative, their Black Horse Express online magazine (www.blackhorsewesterns.org) and writer Ian Parham’s Black Horse Blog, as well as a new Express Westerns line of anthologies. A plethora of blogs, including the one you are reading, my own Dark Bits with its Western Wednesdays (http://howardhopkins.blogspot.com) and others have gone viral. Black Horse writer Chap O’Keefe’s Black Horse Extra (www.blackhorsewesterns.com) and new imprint of Misfit Lil books, Robert Hale’s own snazzy new webpage (www.halebooks.com) and newsletter have also forged the trail.

Word is getting out and perhaps riding point in that effort is the man who conceived this Black Horse Weekend, Gary Dobbs. Consummate actor and author, he began his Black Horse writing with a novel that became perhaps the catalyst of growth within the line, igniting more sales than any other BHW before and initiating reprints on select titles. I want to say a personal thank you to Gary, not only for giving me the opportunity to participate in this weekend, but for his enthusiasm and grab-the-bull-by-the-balls attitude.

Which is why I think 2010 will be the year of the Black Horse Western. It’s starting off with a bang and can only get bigger. Express Westerns, on this very weekend, is releasing its second western short story anthology, A Fistful of Legends, which includes some of the cream of the Black Horse crop as well as a couple of talented newcomers, a book slated to compete in the prestigious Western Writers of America Spur awards. Readers will be able to sample 21 writers for the line and see for themselves just how wide a range of talent Black Horse has to offer. Amazon US is now carrying new Black Horse Westerns (but get ‘em fast!), making them easier access for US fans (as well as less expensive).

The future, even in economic downturn, looks bright for these “little horse operas that could”. The Western is far from dead. It is riding strong and will burst into a gallop. And this weekend is its “Hi Yo, Silver!”